BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle
Grade 1, Leopardstown 14:45
Race Value: €110,000
4yo plus,
2m, Class 1  
Sunday 24th January 2016

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1 Faugheen 30/100F
2 Arctic Fire 8/1
3 Nichols Canyon 100/30
5 ran Distances: 15l, 13l, 24l
TIME 3m 54.00s (slow by 9.00s)

Faugheen fills Hurricane Fly's shoes with easy Champion Hurdle win

Faugheen
© Caroline Norris

Faugheen

Faugheen gave Willie Mullins a sixth successive triumph in the BHP Insurances Irish Champion Hurdle with an emphatic performance at Leopardstown.

After Hurricane Fly's five wins in the race, it was the turn of Faugheen (3-10 favourite) to strut his stuff ahead of his bid to repeat last year's victory in the Champion Hurdle at Cheltenham.

Leading from flag-fall under Ruby Walsh, Faugheen was taken on at halfway by his stablemate Nichols Canyon, who had beaten him in the Morgiana Hurdle at Punchestown earlier in the campaign.

However, a mistake at the second-last put paid to his chances and Faugheen went on to win as he liked by 15 lengths.

The other Mullins runner, Arctic Fire, was second, with Nichols Canyon third.

Walsh said: "Faugheen was explosive today. He travelled and jumped really well. We went at it from the word go - he jumped like a buck and he had them all killed off going to the second-last.

"People have been moaning that he's been getting it handy it in front, well you saw what he did when they tried to take him on - he destroyed them altogether.

"I viewed it that if Willie Mullins wasn't training Arctic Fire or Nichols Canyon, what would I do? That's the way I rode the race.

"I was riding the Champion Hurdle horse and if they are going to beat me they are going to have to come and get me."

Mullins said: "It was an electrifying performance and I don't think I've ever seen him jump so well. He only fluffed the last. When he had to jump alongside Nichols Canyon he was hugely accurate and very good.

"They appeared to go a hell of a gallop all the way, and I couldn't ask for any more.

"Arctic Fire ran a cracker, and probably up to last year's form. Nichols Canyon I would imagine was feeling the effects of his last race. I hoped for a bit more from him.

"The two horses left themselves wide open, and Danny (Mullins) still hadn't gone for Arctic Fire coming to the last bend. But he (Faugheen) just opened up again. It was a proper Irish Champion Hurdle."

Delighted owner Rich Ricci was winning the race for the first time and said: "He jumped brilliantly, it was great - fantastic.

"He was good, wasn't he? I thought he looked big again in the ring and there's improvement to come, I hope.

"It was a good race, I'm delighted he won and roll on Cheltenham. To win by 15 lengths on this ground, at this racecourse, is brilliant.

"You can't describe the performance anything other than that. Hopefully he brings the same form to Cheltenham."

Bookmaker reaction was emphatic, with Ladbrokes going just 1-4 (from 1-2) about him retaining his crown at the Festival in March.

The BHP Insurance Irish Champion Hurdle
2m , Race Value: €110,000
5 ran
Going: Soft, Soft to Heavy in places

Pos D Horse SP Jockey Weight Trainer Age
1st Faugheen (IRE) 3/10f R Walsh
11-10
W P Mullins 8
2nd 15 Arctic Fire (GER) 8/1 D E Mullins
11-10
W P Mullins 7
3rd 13 Nichols Canyon 10/3 P Townend
11-10
W P Mullins 6
4th 24 King of The Picts (IRE) 150/1 L P Dempsey
11-10
J P Shanahan 7
5th ½ Plinth (IRE) 100/1 B J Geraghty
11-10
A P O'Brien 6

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